Call of War Review
Strong strategic elements offering up diplomacy, trading and conquest, gated gameplay advancements to avoid rushing for powerful units
Game is essentially the same as the developers previous title, Gold premium currency can potentially offer too great an advantage early game, slight graphics issues when zooming in to the map
This week we took a little time out to check the new browser-based strategy game Call of War from Bytro Labs, a WW2 themed free to play RTS where players battle against each other trying to gather resources, build bases, raise armies and destroy each other. To check out the game and test run some of the features we were given 200,000 gold premium currency, worth around $50, and able to go on a little spending spree. With plenty of WW2 themed strategies out there we were interested to see what Call of War could offer that wasn’t already being provided by not only other developers but Bytro themselves, already serving up three similar strategy games including two World War inspired ones.
Logging in the game's graphics are extremely basic, cutting away the glitz and glamor for a more simple and clean interface which, whilst nothing particularly impressive, actually looks decent enough and works well and makes you feel like this is a strategy game. The tutorial is brief, pointing you to a few key elements and gameplay mechanics, but in general, the game is a more learn as you go experience with info buttons scattered throughout to learn more, and after a little clicking around we felt up to speed pretty quickly with what we could do.
When creating a new account and joining a server players are randomly assigned a country, in our case Sweden, with the entirety of Europe and North America is available. Each country has a number of provinces to it as per their real-world equivalent, with each province having a number of key traits such as resources, victory points, terrain features and more (see later). The most striking thing was how uneven the distribution of provinces is, which whilst totally making sense, seems as though some players are going to get wiped out if they start with somewhere small such as Switzerland or Denmark which have around three or four provinces, as opposed to somewhere like France and Germany with around two dozen or even USSR/Russia which has even more. Essentially what this means is that some players start with more places to build, which means being able to build a large army more quickly with each province only able to produce one military unit at a time. Whilst having a larger country will indeed mean more provinces to cover, players would have to be extremely bold to make a move on larger countries, whereas smaller countries could quite easily be wiped out very early in the game… though this is all just presumption and first impressions, who knows how games typically play out!?
Regardless, territory control is instrumental to winning the game, something that is an actual tangible goal as when a new world/map is created the game enters a new Round and begins at Day One hopefully filling all the countries with players so everyone starts at the same time, with AI taking control of any countries that aren’t filled after the first day (which isn’t usually that many). Upon key provinces are Victory Points, when players control these provinces they add to their total number of Victory points, which are the ultimate the road to winning the game.
The pace of the game is interesting, it’s definitely a thinking persons’ strategy and anyone in it for the instant thrill of combat will be sorely disappointed; producing units is a slow process requiring first and foremost the Research for a particular unit to be unlocked, the necessary building to produce it being upgraded to the right level, having the necessary resources and key resources (which are only available on certain provinces) and then finally spending time to produce them, with each province only able to produce one unit at a time (and each province requires the necessary buildings). Fielding an army actually capable of doing any serious damage takes a long time and lots of micromanagement as players aren’t able to queue without purchasing the High Command premium account option, which whilst not absolutely necessary it does definitely alleviate the time you need to speed continuously logging in to check how your nation is progressing.
As well as the above process and the general time it takes to actually produce a unit, the actual Research tree is gated, not just be the usually branched pre-requisites, but players can only research a specific tech from a certain Day in the round, meaning players can’t simply make a beeline towards the powerful units and that the pace of the game is controlled; it also prevents spending gold to get too high an advantage early on and unbalancing the entire game.
With the pretty high amount of Gold we had been given it was clear to see the distinct advantages purchasing premium currency offers up, even spending it pretty frivolously, with a little more wisdom, planning and patience that we’d imagine anyone parting with real money would have, it’s definitely easy to get an early lead, with our 200k of Gold we were able to purchase all the day 1 technologies, rush construct quite a lot of buildings and units that we wanted to simply see how they worked but wouldn’t be necessary early on. For $50 I’d dare say you could dominate most of your neighbours after a day or two, so it does put into question the “pay to win” aspect of the game unfortunately and whilst the gated Research technologies are a good step, we doubt it would curtail anyone who simply wants to win whatever the cost from being able to do so. We were able to put together a small force relatively easy that could have taken out most of our neighboring provinces and putting our rivals on the defensive very early on, being able to assemble an army capable of doing so in a two-hour playthrough could be enough to tip the advantage.
Fundamentally whilst the game is enjoyable for those that like strategic and competitive MMOs then the game at its core is pretty solid, being able to keep up to date with whats happening in the world using the global newspaper that documents all events is a really nice feature to make the world feel a lot more personal. None of this is a surprise though as the game pretty much follows the majority of the features from Bytro’s other war MMO Supremacy 1914 that is essentially the same kind of game but set in WW1, so as far as breaking the mould I think it’s fair to say that Bytro didn’t go above and beyond on this one.
Ultimately the game is interesting, definitely offers the strategy element, and whilst gold does give a big advantage I imagine that becomes less so in the later game unless you are prepared to drop hundreds on the game; if that’s the case then you’re probably not a very good player if you can’t get by without playing for free. Elements such as no queuing do feel like players hands are being forced to paying for the High Command premium account, making the default game quite hard to compete in without it, but isn’t necessary if you’re prepared to put the time into the game.
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